Bootleggers


Eagle Games, 2004, 3-6 players, no age range specified, so let's say 12 and up. In Bootleggers, players take on the role of prohibition-era mobsters. Turns consist of producing whiskey at your family still, loading it up on trucks and hauling it to speakeasies where you try to sell it for as much money as possible. The game plays out over 12 turns, at the end of which the player with the most money wins (or earlier, if one player reaches $100,000). Playing order during any given turn is decided using an interesting system of "Muscle" cards. At the beginning of each game, each player is dealt 12 random Muscle cards (one for each turn). Each card has a number on it and a dollar amount that it costs to play said card (the higher the number, the more it costs to play). At the beginning of each turn, each player selects one of their Muscle cards and the player who has the highest number gets to go first that turn (the second highest number goes second, etc). It's a pretty nifty mechanic because the temptation is to use up all of your high-numbered cards early on, only to be snookered at the end when going first becomes really important.

Where the game really gets interesting is with the "Action" cards. Each turn, a number of Action cards equal to the number of players in the game are turned up, and each player (in turn order) gets to pick one of them. These cards allow you mess with other players (steal their shipments and/or trucks, shut down their stills, kick them out of a speakeasy, etc), increase your influence (the more influence you have at a given speakeasy, the more money you can make there), increase the production of your still, and so on.

We really enjoyed playing this game. At first glance, the rulebook looks a bit daunting, but it's actually a pretty quick read (maybe 10-15 minutes to go through). The gameplay is quite simple, and once we got going we rarely had to rereference the rules. And despite the simplicity of the game, we actually found the strategy involved to be surprisingly thought provoking. I'd say this game has quite a lot in common with Puerto Rico, another game we thoroughly enjoy. Definitely a keeper. I guess my only suggestion would be to drop the "first player to $100K wins" rule. In a five player game, that usually happens pretty quickly (by turn six or seven), as the first person to gain controlling interest in one of the larger speakeasies is suddenly able to make money a lot faster than everyone else. I think the game is more interesting if that player has to maintain that advantage right through to turn twelve.



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